Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Winter/Spring Booknotes

The Aesthetics of Violence in Contemporary Media, by Gwyn Symonds (Continuum, 2008). “Uses existing studies for the empirical audience reception data combined with discussions of the different representations of violence to look at violence in the media as an art form of its own. Looking at "The Simpsons," "Bowling for Columbine" and Norma Khouri's "Forbidden Love," to name a few.” –Publisher’s description

Arabs in the Mirror: Images and Self-Images from Pre-Islamic to Modern Times, by Nissim Rejwan (University of Texas, 2008). The author has assembled a collection of writings by Arab and Western intellectuals, who try to define what it means to be Arab. He begins with pre-Islamic times and continues to the last decades of the twentieth century, quoting thinkers ranging from Ibn Khaldun to modern writers such as al-Ansari, Haykal, Ahmad Amin, al-'Azm, and Said. Through their works, Rejwan shows how Arabs have grappled with such significant issues as the influence of Islam, the rise of nationalism, the quest for democracy, women's status, the younger generation, Egypt's place in the Arab world, Israel's role in Middle Eastern conflict, and the West's ‘cultural invasion.’”—Publisher’s website

Asian Americans and the Media, by Kent A. Ono (Polity Press, 2009). "Offers us the much needed critical tools, terminology, and historical framework for reading, deconstructing, and intervening in the politics of ambivalent representation of Asian Americans across a wide range of old and new media, from silent films to YouTube." –Elena Tajima Creef, Wellesley College

The Big Picture: Why Democracies Need Journalistic Excellence, by Jeffrey Scheuer (Routledge, 2008). “Explores journalistic excellence from three broad perspectives. First, from the democratic perspective, he shows how journalism is a core democratic function, and journalistic excellence a core democratic value. Then, from an intellectual perspective, he explores the ways in which journalism addresses basic concepts of truth, knowledge, objectivity, and ideology. Finally, from an institutional perspective, he considers the role and possible future of journalism education, the importance of journalistic independence, and the potential for nonprofit journalism to meet the journalistic needs of a democratic society.” –Publisher’s description

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Editorial Cartoons on the Web

Here's a great little roundup of editorial cartoon resources on the web in a recent College & Research Library News. I always make a point to check their regular feature, Internet Resources, which appears in most every issue. It's an old fashioned annotated bibliography of web resources on a variety of topics. You can browse by topic or date. Editorial cartoons on the Web: Picturing politics, by Paul Cammarata, collects libraries and archives, museums, professional organizations and online exhibits of political cartoon resources for students, scholars and the general public.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Introducing Media Cloud

Media Cloud is a project of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University that provides new and evolving tools to quantitatively examine the news media as an information ecosystem. Newly launched the Project's objectives are ambitious. They are:
  • Develop an open database of the topics of all stories from thousands of sources
  • Build lightweight, interactive tools that allow casual users to easily ask the database questions
  • Publish open APIs that give other researchers full access to the database
  • Publish the code for the system under a free software license
  • Publish our own research using the database, including studies on media signatures, meme propagation, and geographic attention profiles

From the March 11 press release:

Researching the nature of news, and media information flows, has always faced a difficult challenge: there is so much produced by so many outlets that it is hard to monitor it all. Researchers have used painstaking manual content analysis to understand mass media. On the web, the explosion of citizen media makes such an approach far more difficult and less comprehensive. By automatically downloading, processing, and querying the full text of thousands of outlets, Media Cloud will allow unprecedented quantitative analysis of media

Today's launch allows a first view into some of what is possible on the Media Cloud platform. At
http://www.mediacloud.org you can generate simple charts of media coverage across ources and countries. The actual capabilities of the system are much greater, and the Media
Cloud team is actively looking for other researchers who will bring their own questions as the tools are further developed. Ultimately, Media Cloud will provide open APIs that can support variety of lines of inquiry.

Visit the Media Cloud site,
try the visualizations, share your research ideas with the team, and sign up for the Media Cloud mailing list to hear about functionality enhancements and other project developments.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

BBC , Bush Free Speech Legacy, The Satanic Verses at 20

The Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television' s last issue of 2008 (Volume 28, Issue 4) is devoted entirely to the BBC. This special issue is titled: BBC World Service, 1932-2007: Cultural Exchange and Public Diplomacy. In honor of the BBC celebrating its 75th year in broadcasting a conference was held in December 2007 at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London to reflect on three quarters of a century of overseas broadcasting from Britain. "Organised by the ARHC-funded Open University research project, 'Tuning In: Diasporic Contact Zones at BBC World Service', it brought together broadcasters, academics and policy-makers to engage in a series of debates about the World Service. The papers in this special issue...are drawn from that conference and will, it is hoped, add to the development of a critical mass that will ensure, in future, the history of international broadcasting receives the academic and public attention and understanding it deserves" (from the Introduction by Marie Gillepsie, Alban Webb, and Gerd Baumann).

Index on Censorship (Volume 37, Number 4, 2008) assesses the future of free speech in the United States in the wake of the Bush era: Eric Lichtblau on the White House's wiretapping program, Patrick Radden Keefe on executive power, Jameel Jaffer on the remaining secrets of the Bush administration, Rich Piltz on climate change, Geoffry Stone on war and speech, Zoriah Miller on image control, Lawrence Krauss on intelligent design, Christopher Finan on monitoring libraries and reading habits, and more.

In this same issue is a special section honoring the 20th anniversary of a free speech watershed, the publication of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Publisher Peter Mayer, Nadine Gordimer, Malise Ruthven, and others weigh in.

Both journals are available from the Penn Libraries page.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

March CommQuote

This month's quote comes from Lamar Van Dyke in the current The New Yorker's American Chronicles piece, Lesbian Nation, by Ariel Levy. The article is an informative and entertaining portrait of the lesbian separatist movement of the late 1970s which never grew to more than a few thousand (but that seems huge by today's standards if you think in terms of numbers of folk willing to live so adventurously outside the consumer landscape, never mind if their adventures were a little confused). Levy focuses on the most colorful separatists, the Van Dykes, who do not represent the most influential or ideological subgroup of the movement but who would probably make for the movement's best movie (script writers looking for material, take note). Levy describes the group as a "roving band of van-driving vegans who shaved their heads, avoided speaking to men unless they were waiters or mechanics, and lived on the highways of North America for several years, stopping only on Women's Land" (p. 30). Lamar Van Dyke was their "star" and her rueful observation on our mediated existence at the conclusion of the article is our March CommQuote.

"'Your generation wants to fit in,' she told me, for the second time. 'Gays in the military and gay marriage? This is what you guys have come up with?' There was no contempt in her voice; it was something else--an almost incredulous maternal disappointment. 'We didn't sit around looking at our phone or looking at our computer or looking at the television--we didn't sit around looking at screens,' she said. 'We didn't wait for a screen to give us a signal to do something. We were off doing whatever we wanted.'"--Lamar Van Dyke, as spoken to Ariel Levy, The New Yorker, March 2, p. 37

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